Have novels about love lost their gravitas as women’s liberation and divorce culture have taken over? Adelle Waldman doesn’t think so. In The New Yorker, she defends the timelessness of the marriage plot. “As long as marriage and love and relationships have high stakes for us emotionally, they have the potential to offer rich subject material for novelists, no matter how flimsy or comparatively uninteresting contemporary relationships seem on their surface.” Pair with: Our Jeffrey Eugenides essay on writing The Marriage Plot, which is referenced several times in Waldman’s essay.
“During various periods of my life I have succumbed to the siren call of sleeping pills. It is hard to resist their promise: one tablet, and your night will be purged. Your brain may be in overdrive, its receptors working away, hungrily awaiting more images and information, but like a computer it is forced into another mode. Yet the little white disks with a dent down the middle are no panacea; whenever I take one of these thought guillotines I feel trapped in a grey zone, seesawing between mid and shallow slumber, mind and body dulled but not of their own accord.” A lifelong insomniac recounts her long struggle with the illness.
Forget the Dos Equis guy. John Fairfax was truly “the most interesting man in the world” and, if you don’t believe me, read this series of lines from his actual obituary: “At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle. At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar. Afterward he was apprenticed to a pirate.”
And the Heart Says Whatever author Emily Gould has been combining two of our favorite things, books and food in an online cooking show called “Cooking the Books.” Past episodes have included Sam Lipsyte (cooking pork buns) and Joanna Smith Rakoff (cooking brunch).
W.S. Merwin, a Hawaii-based poet born in 1927, has been named the 17th Poet Laureate of the United States. A fellow poet writes, “There is something monklike about Merwin … He is trying to achieve a contemplative distance from desire and ambition.”
Beer bongs are never a good idea. Besides the killer hangover you’ll inevitably wake up with the next morning, you might also steal literary art. When Mitchel Potter was a frat boy in 1987, he stole a bronze bust of Robert Frost from Wichita State University and hid it in his basement for 25 years until someone tipped off the police. Ironically, Potter didn’t even know who Frost was, but the prosecutor read “The Road Not Taken” at his trial.